Most bathroom remodeling projects require you to remove and replace most of features in the bathroom during the renovation process. That means that if you’re putting down new floors, painting the walls or replacing fixtures you’re almost definitely going to have to remove the toilet and then reinstall the same toilet or a new toilet when you’re at the end of the project. Toilets can also be removed and replaced if they’re leaking, if they’re beyond repair or you just want to update the style. Removing a toilet from a bathroom is a fairly easy process, though there are some pitfalls to watch out for.
Prepping the Toilet for Removal
Now that you have your tools, let’s start the project. It’s not very difficult to remove a toilet from a bathroom, but you’re going to have to be patient and follow the steps in order. You can’t just yank the toilet off the floor, though. There are a number of precautions you have to take before you get started.
Step 1 – Turn off the Water: This step is obvious, but you’d be shocked at how many times people forget to do this. Before you do anything you’ll want to locate the main water supply shut-off for your toilet. That’s not the knob or the valve behind the toilet tank, but rather the cut off that’s further down the line.
You’ll want to turn off the water to your toilet so that more water doesn’t rush into the back tank when you start to take it apart. First, you should turn the valve handle that’s usually on the wall behind the toilet tank. But be careful, those valves can rust and lose their effectiveness over time, especially if they haven’t been used in a number of years. The valves can break, fall right off the pipe with enough force or begin to leak if they are corroded or haven’t been properly cared for.
That means you should almost definitely be ready to turn off the main water supply to the toilet just in case the water valve behind the toilet ends up leaking and needs to be replaced. If your water valves are more than 10 or 15 years old, then you might want to replace the water valve as well. You can easily do that by twisting off the old valve and then screwing on a new one of the same type. I usually replace any valves that are showing any sort of rust or corrosion when I replace a toilet.
Step 2 – Flush the Toilet: Now that you don’t have any new water coming into your toilet you can flush the toilet and it will empty the tank water into the bowl. Your tank may still have a few inches of water in it and your bowl will definitely have a gallon or two of water in it. Here’s where the fun part begins.
Step 3 – Scoop and Soak Up The Remaining Water: You’ll want to remove the excess water that’s in the back of the tank as well as the bowl itself. This is where those rubber gloves come in handy. You’re going to want to employ several methods to remove as much water as possible. First, use that plastic cup you have to scoop up the water and pour it into your bucket. Use the cup for the tank first and then move on to the bowl. Using a cup is fast, but there will still be some water you can’t easily remove from the toilet.
Next, you’re going to use some of those towels or sponges to absorb the water. I just put the towl right into the tank or bowl, let it suck up as much water as possible, and then I pull wring it out over the bucket. Repeat this process until as much water is out as possible. The less water you have in your toilet, the less water you’ll end up trailing through your house when you carry these toilet parts out of your bathroom.
Step 4 – Remove the Toilet Tank: Now that most of the water has been removed you may want to place a few towels around the toilet on the floor because you’re going to remove the tank (the back part of the toilet) and there will still be some small amounts of water that will leak out. To remove the tank you will usually find two bolts under the tank. Use a wrench to loosen the nuts on the bolts carefully. If you accidentally tighten them or are too rough with them you can crack the porcelain of the tank. Obviously this doesn’t matter as much if you’re goint to be replacing the toilet, but porcelain shards are very sharp so you want to be careful. If you can’t remove the bolts due to corrosion you may want to use a lubricant or result to using a hacksaw or some sort of rotary power tool with a metal cutting blade or wheel. Once the nuts are removed you can usually begin to wiggle the tank or rock it back and forth a little bit to loosen the seal it may have on the toilet. You should be able to lift the whole tank straight up and then remove it from the toilet bowl. Store it in a safe place or dispose of it.
Step 5 – Remove the Toilet Bowl: Now you’re left with a toilet bowl that is probably bolted to the floor, or more appropriately, bolted to a metal or plastic flange that’s part of the toilet drain. Before you work on the hardware you’ll want to look around your toilet to see if there’s any caulk or mortar tile holding it to the floor. If there is a caulk line you can slice it with a razor blade or knife. There really shouldn’t be any sort of tile mortar around your toilet, but some people still use it. If there is mortar you’ll want to crack or scrape it with a hammer and chisel or even an old screwdriver. Most mortar or tile cement won’t be strong enough to hold a toilet down if you just wobble it.
Now for the bolts. You may not see any bolts or nuts around the base of your toilet, but they’re under the little white caps your toilet may still have. The plastic caps usually just pop off revealing the bolts. If your toilet has been in place for a number of years then it’s likely that the bolts holding it in are corroded or rusted. Feel free to use a lubricant or penetrating oil like Liquid Wrench. Again, a hacksaw or some sort of rotary cutting tool can also be used here. Remove the nuts and any washers from the bolt. You’ll most likely have to loosen your toilet from the floor at this point. To do that simply rock it back and forth a few times and it should become “unstuck” from the floor. Toilet bowls are heavy, so be prepared for a workout when you life the bowl up and off the bolts.
Those bolts can now be removed from the flange by sliding them in one direction or another. They’re probably packed with dirt, water and wax which helped seal the bowl to the drain. If the flange is bent, cracked or has a lot of corrosion you may want to remove that as well.
Step 6 – Plug the Toilet Drain: Congratulations, your toilet is now removed! But you almost definitely have a gaping toilet drain in your bathroom. Because sewer gasses are smelly and potentially toxic you’re going to want to be sure to plug up that drain hole nice and tight with a few balled up plastic bags or a thick rag. You may also want to leave a window cracked open in your bathroom just to make sure fresh circulating air is available at all times.
Congratulations! You’ve now removed a toilet and you’re now able to remodel on the rest of the bathroom! In most cases you’ll need to remove a toilet when you need to paint the walls in a bathroom (and can’t get behind the tank) or when you want to refinish the floors. If you’re going to install a new toilet you should remember that toilets are really designed to be placed on top of or over the new flooring material, whether that’s tile, carpet (yuck), vinyl or even hardwood. Your toilet bowl should cover your flooring material.
Still need help? He’s a quick video that covers the basics of removing and then reinstalling an old toilet:
By the way, if you’re planning to install a new toilet and want to save some money (and your back) then here’s my suggestion: buy your toilet from Amazon and go for the free shipping option. Toilets are heavy, bulky things that are a pain to move around (even in a box from the hardware or plumbing store). By shopping through Amazon you can often get the toilet you want delivered right to your doorstep for less money than you can find it anywhere else. Check out the available toilets with free shipping now.
Removing a toilet should generally take you just a few hours. To install a toilet you’re going to want to basically just reverse the steps listed above. Good luck!